Anxiety is a normal human emotion that we can all experience at some point or another. Anxiety only becomes an issue when it tends to occur over and over, frequently and intensely, and interferes with our lives.
Fear is a natural reaction to a threat. It is an instinct designed for us to cope with danger.
Anxiety is the anticipation of a threat, and a lot of times it is an imagined threat that actually never happens. Almost 20% of the population is affected by some form of anxiety disorder, and usually when a person is suffering from an anxiety disorder there is a chemical cause linked to the neurotransmitters in the brain.
Anxiety Disorders: Evolution
Fear is necessary for a species. Recognize potentially unsafe situations has been a necessity for our survival, and being able to be alert and cautious about our surroundings and the potential threats to us is an important feature we have thanks to evolution.
However, anxiety is not the same as fear. Anxiety is the anticipation of an event that will cause fear, and again it is often without any real evidence.
Anxiety Disorders: Description
Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that create a variety of feelings including:
An anxiety disorder can actually have a physical affect on us and manifest itself in physical symptoms. Anxiety disorders can impact how we act and can corrupt our thought process.
Common anxiety disorders include:
Specific phobias are an intense fear of a specific object or situation
- Panic disorder
Feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly without warning
Overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations
- Generalized anxiety disorder
Excessive, unrealistic worry and tension, even if there is little or nothing to provoke the anxiety
There is also Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is associated with severe trauma and prolonged episodes of severe anxiety, and there are a lot of different factors that can contribute to any number of anxiety disorders. For this reason, anxiety disorders are often difficult to diagnose and treat.
Anxiety Disorders: Symptoms
As noted, there is a variety of symptoms people experience with anxiety disorders. Symptoms can always differ depending on the type of anxiety disorder someone has, and sometimes the physical symptoms vary, but general symptoms of an anxiety disorder include:
- Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
- Problems sleeping
- Cold or sweaty hands and/or feet
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- An inability to be still and calm
- Dry mouth
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Muscle tension
With general anxiety these things happen naturally, but with anxiety disorders the symptoms show up with no actual threat present.
Anxiety Disorders: Treatment
There are many treatments available for treating anxiety disorders, but the most successful ones involve changing the reaction to fear. Although the exact treatment approach depends on the specific type of anxiety disorder an individual is experiencing, there are a variety of therapies out there that have been developed to help treat anxiety disorders.
Cognitive behavioral therapy or exposure therapy are two very common methods of treating an anxiety disorder.
In exposure therapy, the individual is exposed to various stimuli that normally cause fear and anxiety, done in a safe and supervised environment under the care of a medical professional. Through this method, over the course of several sessions, the fear caused by the stimulus weakens and the patient can live without fear, or at least with less fear and anxiety.
Cognitive behavioral therapy basically works on shifting any dysfunctional ideas about certain events or behaviors and eliminating negative associations through talking and role-playing, and attempts to create healthier and more supportive connections to these concepts. Over-all treatment for anxiety disorders can have a huge impact if you are able to find a treatment most effective to your needs.
If you suffer from an anxiety disorder that is interfering with your life and you feel like you need more support with getting it under control, please consider seeing a therapist. Anxiety and other psychological disorders are also common to those who also struggle with substance abuse. Get the help you need.
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